3:1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?
This word security means a resting place, a permanent home. It’s a synonym of the word she used back in chapter 1 vs.9 May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”, and so we see again that Boaz is being used by God to answer a prayer.
When she says that she wants Ruth to be well-situated, that it may be well with her, she’s using a common idiom associated with blessings from God, and especially those blessings which come from keeping our covenant with Him, just as there are benefits in marriage of keeping our covenant with our spouse. For example (Jer 7:23, Deut4:40,Deut 5:16).
In their culture, it was customary for parents to arrange marriages for their children, and so Naomi is treating Ruth as her daughter, by making sure that she finds security in the house of her husband.
2 Now is not Boaz our [b]kinsman, with whose maids you were?
Everything that Naomi is going to say from now on, hinges on the fact that Boaz is their close kinsman. We can’t help but smile at her excitement—this is a pretty big change for someone who wanted everyone to re-name her bitter only one chapter ago. Now, we see matchmaker Naomi. Naomi is going to make sure that whatever relationship has built up between Ruth and Boaz continues.
Now was a convenient time to remind Boaz of his family obligations. It is Boaz’ demonstration of character over the past couple of months that has encouraged Naomi to hope that he would fulfill his obligations. And she is looking for one thing from Boaz at this juncture—commitment!
Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight.
Winnowing grain is the process where the grain was threshed by pulling a heavy sled over it with bumps or stones laid into the bottom, so that it would crush the grain. Although they started harvesting barley, then moved on to harvesting wheat, they’re still finishing up the barley winnowing after all the wheat has all been harvested—meaning they had a lot more barley than wheat to harvest.
Israel was growing a lot more barley than wheat at this time in their history. Because Israel had failed to drive out all of the tribes that God had intended them to, they didn’t have access to some of the more fertile lands in Israel, where the more nutritious wheat would grow.
In our own lives, we may not always understand why God is telling us to do something or not to do something. But, we should always obey. God knows what He is talking about, and will not steer us wrong. The only thing we can do wrong is fail to obey God.
Winnowing time was traditionally considered a time of celebration, since it was the last step that had to be accomplished in order to bring the harvest in.
3 Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
Naomi has four commands that Ruth must accomplish
Now our Lord Jesus accepts us and asks us to come to him as we are. When Ruth met Boaz, she was sweaty and working hard in the field—that’s how they met. But Ruth was now wanting a deeper relationship with Boaz. In the Old Testament, the law required ceremonial washings and taking a bath and changing clothes often was done before a special event. (e.g. Gen 35:1-2, Exo 19:10-11)
If we want to enter into a deeper relationship with the Lord, we must (2nd Corinthians 7:1) “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Or as James 4:8 tells us Draw near to God and He will draw near to you Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Or, as Jesus says in John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. We are cleansed and washed as we read the Word and apply it to our lives.
So Ruth is going to anoint herself with oil. Oil, in Old Testament and New Testament times was rubbed on the skin for refreshment. It was a sign of abundance, so we read verses like Ecclesiastes 9:7-8 7Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for God has already approved your works: 8“Let your clothes always be white, and never spare the oil for your head.”
Put on your best clothes
We also need to understand that Ruth is getting washed and dressed like someone getting married. She’s putting on her best outer garment, not her work clothes. She’s going to present herself to Boaz and let him know that she wants him to be her kinsman redeemer.
go down to the threshing floor;
She was to go down to the threshing floor where Boaz was, but she had to be careful:
but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
So, Naomi wanted to make sure that Boaz was in good spirits, after having a great meal and celebrating the harvest. She was giving her plan the best chance possible to succeed.
4 It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies,
Naomi says that Ruth will carefully notice the place on the threshing floor where Boaz lays himself down to sleep. Remember that this was before flashlights, and she couldn’t very well light an oil lamp if she doesn’t want to be seen by everyone. Everyone looks pretty much the same in the dark when they’re bundled up sleeping. I’m sure she did note carefully where Boaz laid himself down. After-all, she wouldn’t want to propose marriage to the wrong person!
and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down;
By uncovering his feet, she’s probably making sure that, as the night got colder, he would wake up after everyone else was asleep, so that they could talk. But this also has another meaning. Remember, that everyone slept in their outer garments. This is why, in Exodus 22:26-7 God commands the Israelites that if they take a man’s outer garment as collateral for a loan If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? When you put your outer garment over someone and covered them with it, it meant that they were under your protection—that you were taking them in—keeping them from the cold, as it were.
5 She said to her, “All that you say I will do.”
These instructions to Ruth are quite risky. Naomi is trusting in the character of Boaz, that he will not take unfair advantage of Ruth. She’s trusting Ruth to follow her instructions carefully, so that Boaz knows exactly what’s being asked of him.
We’re talking today about how Ruth prepared to meet the groom Boaz, and of course it calls to mind how we, throughout our Christian life are preparing ourselves, as a member of the Bride of Christ, to meet our Redeemer someday.
We wash with the water of the Word
We anoint with oil of the Holy Spirit
Put on our best clothes—covering us with the righteous acts of the saints as a garment
Go through the threshing floor of this life until we meet Jesus
But God is the one who ultimately gives us this ability to prepare to meet Jesus. These bridal preparations that Ruth goes through, and this preparation that we go through in our Christian lives is only made possible by God. (Ezek 16:8-10). God is the one who notices us, and spreads His skirt of protection over us, just like Ruth asks Boaz to do.
18 She took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied.
Naomi’s been worrying all day whether Ruth would come back at all, or whether she would come back having been mistreated all day, or whether she’d been turned away as a foreigner, or just been able to get the left-overs from the left-over gleanings. Imagine her surprise when Ruth came walking in with 30 pounds of barley!
Then, Ruth brought out and gave her something hidden that she had left over from her satisfying meal. Ruth to come back with all of this barley, but to come back with cooked food, ready to eat.
19 Her mother-in-law then said to her, “Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed.”
She immediately blesses whomever has taken notice of Ruth, without even knowing who it is. This phrase “take notice of you” Hiphil means “to recognize for oneself”—to recognize Ruth for herself—not as a stranger, but for who she is as a person.
Notice that the Bible doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about the blessing—all of that barley and the ready-to-eat meal that Ruth brought home. The focus is immediately on the source of the blessings—Boaz.
So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.”
As soon as Naomi hears that it is Boaz who has shown them such kindness and shown such attention to Ruth, she sees and understands the possibilities of what this means. Her spirit is suddenly no longer downcast, she has been lifted up from the depths. No longer bitter, she is beginning to see the better.
20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.”
Notice, she’s not thanking Boaz for the gift itself, but for the reason: the hesed the lovingkindness, compassion and caring he has shown Naomi through Ruth. Naomi’s joy and delight is not that they have the grain, although clearly food is needed, it’s that Boaz has clearly signaled that he is going to honor them as his relatives, and will take care of them from now on. This calls to mind Naomi’s prayer for Ruth back in chapter 1 vs. 8-9 8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” The use of such a similar phrase here about the same hesed; lovingkindness that Boaz has shown to both the living and the dead seems to suggest that maybe God will use Boaz as an answer to this prayer. That’s what she’s so excited about!
And looking at all Boaz has done and has promised to do for Ruth, to be the one who provides for her, to protect her, to bless her and pray for her, share his mealtime and his own food with her, to arrange little favors for her without her knowing through his servants—all of this looks suspiciously like Boaz is demonstrating to Ruth that he can provide for her. It’s the exact kind of demonstration that would have been expected at a betrothal dinner, as was the custom in Old Testament times.
Ruth, this gentile bride, was introduced to Boaz by this unnamed servant, in chapter 2 vs. 5-7, but it is Boaz who takes the initiative and approaches Ruth, and this care and protection that Boaz has provided for Ruth points to the further relationship that’s going to develop between them.
20 Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.”
It’s Boaz’ identity as a close relative that enables everything else to happen in the Book of Ruth. Naomi says that Boaz is mig·gō·’ă·lê·nū one of our Goael, one of those who acts as kinsman redeemer. Now Goael was a term from Israelite family law. And, the meaning of the word Goael is to redeem. Although the meaning of the word took on the idea of kinsman-redeemer because in order to qualify, you had to be a close relative, the emphasis of the word is on redemption.
Notice by the way, that Naomi says “our close relative”. It is clear that Naomi now considers Ruth her family.
21 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “Furthermore, he said to me, ‘You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.’”
Ruth understood that now she belonged to Boaz’ clan. Ruth’s also letting Naomi know that Boaz told her that she can stay not only until they finish harvesting all of the fields of barley, but to stay through the wheat harvest as well.
At 2 pounds of grain each per day for Ruth and Naomi to eat, it would have only taken about 24 days of harvesting (so about a month, with taking Sabbaths off) to get enough grain for a year. So, they likely got about 2 years’ worth of grain, if they got as much each day as Ruth got on the first day. Clearly Boaz was providing for them!
22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field.”
She’s making sure that no romance can start with one of the male servants before she can arrange things with Boaz and also that Ruth is acting as a young unmarried maiden should in Israelite society—thus making her more eligible as a bride. So Naomi is protecting Ruth’s chastity and making sure that she’s under the same protection as Boaz’ other maids who he is responsible for.
23 So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
She waited on God’s timing to see what He would do. So we have a careful accounting of Ruth’s time during these months. What we don’t have is an account of how many times Boaz and Ruth met for lunch during these months, or what they said, or how their relationship grew. As with our relationship with Jesus, so much of our growth takes place inside, where it is hidden from others.
God has put Ruth in just the place and time where He can use Boaz to provide for her.
12 May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.”
Like Naomi did earlier in chapter 1, Boaz is acknowledging that Ruth’s true reward will come from God. Boaz is talking here about the labor of love that Ruth has been performing by taking care of her mother-in-law Naomi. Boaz is also saying that he understands that she’s now a worshiper of the One True God, and that her refuge is now found in God.
God longs for us to return to Him.
And once the returning has happened, God restores.
God and He is in the business of restoring what has been taken away, making up the years that seem wasted and ruined (e.g. Israelites wages restored from the Egyptians, Jacob’s wages restored from Laban).
13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.”
Ruth thanks Boaz for demonstrating his favor toward her in two ways. First, that he has comforted her. His words have fallen upon her heart. Although this is the second time that Ruth has mentioned to Boaz in the same conversation that she’s a foreigner (that she’s not even the equal of one of his maidservants) Boaz never treats her this way. And it’s the same way when we come to God. He doesn’t care about our idol-worshipping or self-worshiping background, or where we come from, or anything else about us. He wants to save us, to comfort us, to speak those kind, caring, comforting words to our hearts.
14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left.
Boaz specifically invites Ruth to eat with them at meal-time. He invites her to take some of the bread off of the loaf and dip it in the wine-vinegar. Giving the sop to someone was considered a great demonstration of hospitality, love and honor toward the one that you’re sharing the sop with. You give the sop to someone that you love and want to show everyone else that you love them. Ruth’s chosen to accept the love and hospitality of Boaz. And more importantly, she’s chosen to serve the Lord God and walk in His ways.
15 When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. 16 Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”
Because Ruth is the first one to go back to work, while everyone else is finishing up their meal, Boaz is able to make special provisions for her, to make sure that she and Naomi have plenty to eat.
So when Boaz says “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her, he is demonstrating the very favor that she has been praying that someone would show her. His kindness and provision are an answer to prayer for Ruth and Naomi. Boaz tells his servants to purposely pull out handfuls of grain heads and let it fall to the ground.
Lastly, Boaz provided for her safety and security by ordering his servants to refrain from scolding her for gleaning among the sheaves, and not to reproach her, that is, not to call her thief, or to suspect her of taking more than was allowed for her to take.
17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
The word ephah was a word borrowed from Egyptian which means basket—and so when used as a unit of measure, it means basket-full. So this would be somewhere between about 6 and 9 gallon milk containers full of Barley, or about 30 pounds worth. The generosity and kindness of Boaz far exceeded her expectations that she set when she first started gleaning. The famine that had dogged their steps for so many years was instantly over for these two women.
We’re at a neat place in the story of Ruth. God’s blessings, favor and provision are beginning to be on display in the life of Ruth. Although she is witnessing God’s provision, and although she’s gleaning for both herself and Naomi; Naomi doesn’t see it yet. God has already begun to provide, but because Naomi has been too busy complaining about how God has dealt with her, and complaining about all that she has gone through, she’s not out there with Ruth, and so doesn’t yet see the wonder of God’s provision.
Bitter has a hard time seeing better. Although she has returned to Bethlehem, she has not yet taken her refuge in the Lord, as Ruth as done. So, my question to you is: “Do you see it yet? Do you see how God is waiting for you to return to him in those places in your life that you have shut Him out of. Trust in the God who’s in the restoration business and return to Him. He just wants you to allow Him, to give Him the opportunity to bless you. And very likely, He will bless you in those same areas of your life in which you choose to return to Him.